Choosing ground cover for your garden

Apart from your actual lawn area, the one thing you don’t really want in your garden is too much empty ground space. Borders can look very bare if you don’t add some sort of ground cover and bare areas, usually lead to prolific weed growth.

There are really 2 different types of ground cover. Non growing ground cover and growing ground cover (or natural ground cover). And within these 2 categories, are many different options.

Non growing ground cover would consist of things like bark chippings, gravel, boulders, rocks, etc. These obviously can be placed into borders to add a decorative touch around the existing plants you have. However, bare in mind that the bark chippings will need to be added to every year as some of them decompose.

Gravel, boulders, rocks etc. obviously do not decompose, so they will pretty much remain static but this of course does lead to its own set of problems. If you want to add a few more plants, you might get left with surplus rocks, stones or boulders.

The other downside to non growing ground cover is that if the spaces are too big, it might actually make the border area look even more plain. The image below will give you an idea of what I mean. Yes, it’s neat and tidy but it actually looks pretty bare. There are only a handful of plants and then a huge amount of wood chippings. Of course the shrubs will grow over time but not to the extent that will cover all of the bare space.

Non growing ground cover doesn’t grow, so it never expands or contains any real variance of shape and colour.

Growing ground cover is of course the complete opposite. It does grow, it does expand, it will contain variances of shape and colour but of course that will come with it’s own set of problems.

Problem number 1 is that if you want to get the bare ground covered quickly, you’re going to need to plant a heck of a lot of it, to make it fill those nasty big gaps. The 2nd problem is that only until it has been lest to take on its own devices for a number of years, will you really get the lovely, wild carpet effect.

If you take a look at the image below, you’ll kind of get the gist of what I mean. These Himalayan Knotweed and Fleece flowers probably took a fair while to get to this stage and there are still some pretty sizeable gaps.

Of course the problem can be lessened a fair bit by adding some annuals during the growing season. Annuals, as their name suggests, only hang around for a year, so you can plant at will, knowing that they won’t be outgrowing their space.

If you kind of imagine each section of your border to be like a hanging basket, you can plant in a similar way and achieve dramatic results within weeks.

The image below shows a clever use of annuals to fill in the gaps of a flower border full of perennials. However, there is a catch. To create a wonderful looking bed of perennials, requires enough skill in itself but if you use annuals in conjunction with a few hardy shrubs mixed with your perennials, it’s worth the effort over time.

There is of course another solution, which is to mix it all up a bit. Using a mixture of non growing ground cover, growing ground cover and some cut priced annuals, could give you some pretty decent coverage, without having to wait 5 years to see the results.

And don’t be afraid to add potted plants, rocks, boulders and anything else you can get your hands on to your borders or flower beds. Even if you are adding bark chippings or any other type of mass cover, mix it up a bit. The bark chippings, gravel or slate chippings, should only ever be there to create a blank canvas, they should not be there to dominate your bare areas.

Below are a few pictures of garden border / flower bed ideas that I really like. I like the imagination, the creativity and the overall effect. Hopefully they will give you some inspiration.

If you are adding rocks or stones to your garden, dig them down a little bit so that they look like they are naturally coming out of the ground as in the above photo. If you place them on top of the soil, it never quite looks the same.

Putting these potted plants in amongst the natural ground cover creates a bit of extra shape, cove and colour. As the natural ground cover grows, you can move the pots to other area of the garden.

A bench, some natural ground cover, gravel, rocks and a great shape. This is a very clever solution and wouldn’t take years to cultivate.

Its a fairly old school design but by using the potted plants, in among the planted ones, there are not too many gaps in this garden.

So, just a few little ideas, which hopefully will get you thinking. All you have remember is that if you revert back to the original principles of garden design, which I mentioned in my tips blog, the same rules apply.

Think about your budget, think about the overall effect you are trying to achieve and obviously make sure it’s within your capability, or call in the professionals for those bits you need help with.

Good luck